The Freedom to Actually Work

Susan Van DykePersonal branding

The Janders Dean & Chicago-Kent College of Law “Legal Horizons Conference” held in Chicago on July 14, was a captivating TED-style one-day program.  Speakers from the likes of Google and the Big4 held our attention talking about legal services transformation and sharing their thoughts on updates and challenges within our profession.

The opening session was led by Kate Johnson, a Change & Transformation Lead at Google.  A couple of her remarks struck a real chord with me, in particular, she shared how her Senior VP encourages his people to work: the key word being how he encourages his people to work.

She talked about his philosophy of allowing your people the space and freedom to truly create something, and the transparent environment they need in order to accomplish that. This sounds relatively simple, right?  However, I caught myself thinking about what we hear from our clients and our network at large about the space and freedom to actually work to create something. The challenge most firms have with this is understanding how it relates to ROI. But, not all returns are direct or immediate. If a strategic goal for your firm is to develop unique competitive advantages, then try to give your people the time and platform to see what they can produce, given the opportunity to try something different. These opportunities will provide firm leadership with a chance to see those who use this chance to step up and create something, and/or display initiative on a project where it was previously lacking.

When was the last time you blocked out a portion of your calendar to immerse yourself in a project? And in doing so, shut down all other distractions (both technology and people!) to do so?  The reality is that legal marketers typically do not have this luxury.  So, knowing this, how can we make it a reality?

As we head into the second half of 2016, the below list is a timely reminder to us all:

  • Block out manageable portions in your calendar where you know you can have (mostly) uninterrupted time to work on a passion project
  • If you currently don’t have a passion project, find one. Your value exponentially increases when you can create and run these types of projects
  • Redefine the concept of being busy: think about how productive you are when you’re busy responding to emails, for example. Is this productive work, or it is busy work?
  • Challenge the concept of more hours working means that you are more productive (consider this HBR post “Give Yourself Permission to Work Fewer Hours”,
  • Share this concept with your leaders so you feel empowered to take these steps

Don’t wait for the chance, instead create an opportunity to work creatively and to stand for something within your teams and firms. This has the potential to provide you with greater career satisfaction, as well as outstanding leadership and ownership opportunities.